This article first appeared on EHS Today on 21/04/2016.
Having your virtual office just a click of an iPhone app away can mean being accessible at all hours. Find out how to achieve work-life balance.

The traditional 9-5 workweek is slowly getting phased out as flexible work schedules and remote work quickly become a typical benefit in the workplace. Some employees look at this shift in a positive light – more time at home with their kids and the luxury of being able to work from the comfort of their home. But with this booming trend comes the need for workplace technology, raising the question of whether remote employees should feel obligated to stay connected 24/7.

In order to accommodate the influx of remote workers, many companies are introducing project management platforms where employees can access work, chat with teams and safely share files all from a home computer or smartphone/tablet. The goal of these platforms is to streamline project management and team communication, but having your workload at your fingertips when you’re off the clock can also blur the lines of work-life boundaries.

Below are my tips to achieve work-life balance – especially for employees who feel like having your virtual office just a click of an iPhone app away means being accessible at all hours.

1.  Being connected 24/7 doesn’t mean you’re being productive.

Being connected 24/7 means you’re constantly reacting. People who are constantly replying to emails and touching their smart phones have the elusive sense they are being productive when they are not.

Productivity means you’re in control of your time, and you decide how to spend your hours based on your objectives.  You can’t stay connected all the time and be present in a two-hour business meeting or at a family dinner.  It’s very important to disconnect and focus on the objective at hand.

2.  Find your own work-life balance.

Work and life should be integrated in how you plan your waking hours.  Time is finite, so you have to find the balance in your planning.  With more flexible time and working remotely, people will have more flexibility to attend to personal and family matters, which is a major benefit.  It will, however, require more upfront planning and the discipline to execute your plan.  Unless you can manage that flexibility, you may lose yourself by under or overworking.

3.  If you opt to work remotely, you only can succeed with self-discipline.

Some people might get unproductive with a desire to frequently engage in household chores. On the other hand, others might get burned out because they don’t know when to start or stop working.  Working effectively at home requires that you set clear goals, plan ahead, track your time and make sure you’re productive within your dedicated work hours.  As you have more flexibility compared to regular corporate hours, it requires much more planning and control over your schedule.

4.  Work-life balance vs. flexible work schedule – You can have both.

When it comes to work-life balance, flexibility is key in achieving it.  The problem is the lack of control that stems from not knowing how to plan and not having the discipline to follow through. In order to prevent such symptoms, it’s important to set realistic daily goals and have a high degree of self-discipline to achieve them. If you take undue advantage of flexible work schedules, procrastinate and then complain about lack of work life balance, then you’ve only got yourself to blame.

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